California’s Aquifers Being Filled with Toxic Fracking Wastewater

Posted in: Fracking, Ground Water News, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Wastewater from fracking operation being dumped into pond in Shafter, Kern County, California. Notice the sludge on top of the dirty water?
Photo Credit: Fast News

Article courtesy of Karen Graham | March 23, 2015 | Digital Journal | Shared as educational material

In November 2014, an investigation revealed that California state officials knowingly allowed oil companies to dump, or pump millions of gallons of toxic waste-water into the state’s federally protected underground freshwater aquifers.

Today it was announced that studies show the injection mixture contains over 200 200 different chemicals, including diesel, biocides and benzene.

The latest news on the chemical makeup of the fracking waste-water being pumped and dumped into the aquifers comes on the heels of the November 2014 investigative report by news.
The investigative team learned that California’s Department of Conservation’s Chief Deputy Director, Jason Marshall, admitted to the state issuing permits allowing the injection of the toxic waste-water into clean aquifers at over 40 different sites around the state.

What is being done with fracking waste-water in California

Until recently, according to studies done on the environmental impact of fracking in the Marcellus and Barnett Shales, it was believed that the incidents of contaminated groundwater caused by fracking was due to faulty equipment. But what has been going on in California is more sinister.
As the public has been told, fracking uses a massive amount of water that is injected underground during the drilling process. The left over waste-water is often re-injected back into the well site where the oil extraction took place. But more often, the waste-water is disposed of in nearby aquifers the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls “exempt.” An exempt aquifer is one that contains water not fit for humans to drink or use.
The November investigation found that 500 fracking wells were identified as allegedly dumping waste-water into “pristine” aquifers. However, California’s Water Resources Control Board has upped the numbers, saying 532 injection wells are now suspected of dumping toxic waste-water into clean aquifers. The aquifers are located in areas all around the state, including Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, Fresno, Paso Robles and Los Angeles in addition to Kern County.
The future impact to California’s water supply

One reality check is that with 93 percent of California designated still in a “Severe Drought” zone or worse, the importance of having clean, pristine aquifers for drinking water rises in importance. Now, that clean water has been potentially damaged beyond repair.

“It’s inexcusable,” said Hollin Kretzmann, with the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco. “That’s a huge concern and communities who rely on water supply wells near these injection wells have a lot of reason to be concerned that they’re finding high levels of arsenic and thallium and other chemicals nearby where these injection wells have been allowed to operate.”

EPA orders California to bring waste-water injection program into federal compliance by 2017

In a letter to California officials, the EPA demanded the state bring an end to the practices and gave them until February 15, 2017 to come into compliance. But the public is left out in the cold with the EPA directive. How much damage has already been done, and how much more damage will be done in the next two years?

Sadly, and not unsurprisingly, California officials admit that testing of some drinking water wells near injection sites have “higher than acceptable” levels of toxicants including arsenic, nitrates, and thallium. But, officials claim these toxic contaminants are not the result of fracking. Interesting to note, but the three chemicals are used in the fracking process.

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